Being able to make good decisions is not just an important part of managing your career, but an important part of life. As individuals, we make decisions all day long, about our families, our careers and ourselves. These range from small choices, like what to make for dinner and how you are going to get kids from A to B, to bigger choices such as going back to work after a career break or making the career change you’ve been thinking about.
Some decisions are made easily without even considering how we are making them – they just feel right. In fact, it is estimated that we make 35,000 decisions in a day! Other times we get stuck, and no matter how many times we go over the options, we just can’t land on one.
An unmade decision can be a bit like a house guest that has overstayed their welcome. Every time you sit down to relax and watch TV, they are there, in the corner of your eye, tapping on their phone and sighing audibly enough to distract you from your show.
We begin to lose sleep and toss our options around and around in our mind until we become paralysed with indecision. The more we talk about it with other people, the more opinions are voiced making the process mentally stressful and even more difficult and time-consuming. We start to lose patience, snap at the kids and inevitably start to feel frustrated by our own paralysis. Sound familiar?
The good news is there are some straightforward steps you can follow to help the decision-making process become easier.
- Streamline: Streamlining simpler decisions allows you to save your decision-making energy for bigger and more important ones.
It is a well-known anecdote that President Obama only wore blue suits because he wanted to conserve his decision-making energy for more important things – like running the country. Eating the same meals each week might sound a bit boring (Taco Tuesday anyone?) but it sure makes shopping easier and saves you from that sinking, panicky feeling of wanting to make spaghetti bolognaise at 7pm without the right ingredients.
- Use your values – When considering the outcomes of your decision, the values you hold important can help make that decision.
One client wanted to return to work after her kids started school, yet she was struggling to find enthusiasm and motivation to look for jobs in her previous industry. So much so, she took to avoid applying for jobs altogether and became deeply frustrated. Together we identified her values. She admitted she wanted to work in health again but didn’t want to be travelling far from home. It was a high priority. We narrowed her searches to within a 5 km radius and she found success in doing medical referrals close by to her home and her children’s school.
Considering how well each of your options reflects the values that are most important to you can sometimes make what was a difficult decision an obvious one. Certainly when it comes down to career decisions.
- Know your decision-making style: Think about the last good decision you made. What was the process you went through to make it? Did you talk it over with friends and gather a range of opinions on the issue? Or did you research your options in fine detail? Are you someone who goes with your gut feeling? Or are you a fan of a pros and cons list?
Most of us don’t actually think about the processes we use to make decisions but reflecting on the way we have made successful decisions in the past can often be helpful and insightful in making a difficult or important one.
A friend of mine, with a successful career she loves, takes a recruitment approach to decision making. She develops selection criteria for the outcome she is looking for. She lists that criteria in order of importance and then scores each option against that criteria. The outcome of the decision is based on the highest score. She has made all her important career decisions this way and even used the same approach in finding her ideal partner!
- Sleep on it: If you make a big decision when you are tired, you are likely to regret it. By leaving any difficult or big decisions until the morning, you give yourself the chance to focus on your decision without the distraction of a whole day’s worth of thoughts and events competing for your headspace.
Those 35,000 daily decisions are an impressive number! So it comes as no surprise that the more decisions we make in one day, the more we risk making bad ones due to tiredness and overwhelm sets in. This is called ‘decision fatigue’.
If someone is pressing you for a decision and you feel you have hit the decision fatigue wall – stall them. It’s OK. Tell them you need more time to think and you will get back to them within a reasonable timeframe.
A final word
It is so tempting to rush to a decision just to alleviate the uncomfortable feeling that lingers in your head when you can’t make one. We all know how good it can feel to make a decision because when we do, we are discarding all unsuitable alternatives and moving on to our vision for what the future will hold now the decision has been made.
Career decisions, like any big decisions, need to be given the full consideration and be made at the right time in order to be successful.
So why not offer that houseguest a cup of tea and let them stay a while before showing them the door after a good night sleep.
With over 15 years experience as professionally qualified Careers Consultant and Human Resources practitioner across various industries, Jo‘s passion lies in assisting people to manage their careers and supporting organisations for positive growth. Her areas of expertise include career coaching, Resume writing, Job search strategies, Redeployment Case Management and HR Consulting among others.
FlexCareers offers a FREE 30-minute introductory meeting with our FlexCoaches, to help you establish if coaching is right for you. You can contact Jo through FlexCareers here for help in preparing for interviews, defining a job search strategy and building your confidence.